Developers and Conservationists – A Profitable Team

LandChoices offers smart land use information

DETROIT, August 29, 2005–With more than 5,000 acres of land being developed every day in America and land-consuming conventional subdivisions popping up everywhere, there is a strong need for profitable development that also conserves land.

Contrary to popular belief, conservationists and developers make a very profitable team, reducing costs while increasing the desirability and market value of new developments. Few landowners, citizens and planning commissioners realize such options exist.

LandChoices, a new non-profit organization, is working to inform stakeholders about land protection options that are sensible and beneficial for both land developers and landowners.

Conservation designs include creatively placed homes surrounded by significant areas of the land’s best natural features: woods, prairies or lakes. Subdivisions developed with a plan for conserving open space have proven to be a tremendous success for landowners, developers, townships and homebuyers.

Randall Arendt, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on conservation subdivision design and a member of LandChoices Advisory Group, recognizes that communities can conserve farmland, wooded habitat and natural areas and maintain landowner equity while accommodating land development. "Landowners who view their property as their ‘pension’ no longer have to destroy their woods and fields in order to retire with a guaranteed income, as their equity is not diminished.”

Arendt’s simple process involves identifying conservation areas, then locating house sites, streets and trails, and lot lines. Conservation subdivision design permanently preserves 50 to 70 percent of the property’s total buildable land as natural areas. Trails meander through natural areas and provide outdoor recreation for subdivision residents.

Land developer Kurt Andrae, president of Red Wing Land Company and another of LandChoices Advisers, has adopted Arendt’s conservation design processes. "When I became a developer, I knew that there had to be a more respectful way to treat the land while also creating unique living spaces. Conservation subdivision design accomplishes both of these goals and is the only way I approach development."

Many people mistaken believe that it costs more to develop land with open space conservation in mind. According to Andrae, that is not the case. "More often than not, this approach saves on project costs and accelerates approval timelines."

In fact, grading costs on one conservation development in Texas plummeted from $300,000 to $50,000 when conservation development was chosen. It also saved 24 of 25 large trees that would have otherwise been lost. The trees and open space add value compared with traditional development.

"A client of mine in Indiana told me that my design for his 40-lot subdivision enabled him to charge $20,000 to $25,000 more per lot, compared with house lots without open space. The total added value was between $800,000 and $1,000,000," said Arendt.

With such proven practices, LandChoices seeks to reach landowners, developers and communities to make more people aware of land development options that increase the value of their work, save money and conserve our precious land.

About LandChoices
LandChoices is a non-profit organization established to inform landowners about land protection options and how conservation subdivision design can be more profitable and less land consumptive than traditional subdivision development. President and Founder Kirt Manecke is a former executive director and director of development and marketing for a northern Michigan land conservancy. For more information, to make a contribution, or to learn more about conservation subdivision design, visit